Pennsylvania, with its Marcellus Shale natural gas resources, has become the focal point of major pipeline construction. The pipeline industry, however, is learning that Pennsylvania’s geography and hydrology present unique challenges, especially when it comes to meeting environmental requirements intended to protect the Commonwealth’s water resources. Enhanced scrutiny of these often massive construction projects by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) has led to DEP assessing multi-million dollar civil penalties against pipeline owners as a result of environmental violations. Most notably, DEP has assessed over $13 million in civil penalties against Sunoco Pipeline, LP in connection with the construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline. In addition, on February 21, 2019, DEP assessed a $1.5 million penalty against Rice Midstream Holdings for violations associated with the construction of the Beta Trunk Pipeline in Greene County.
Typically, pipeline owners and construction companies are required to obtain multiple permits from DEP. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania’s terrain and climate have presented significant challenges to meeting environmental requirements. The violations connected with pipeline construction generally fall into two categories – inadvertent returns (“IRs”) associated with Horizontal Directional Drilling (“HDD”) and the failure of pipeline construction companies to install and/or implement best management practices (“BMPs”) to prevent erosion and sedimentation (“E&S”) from impacting waterways and wetlands.
DEP-issued permits typically spell out in significant detail how, where, and when construction can take place and what measures must be implemented to protect the environment. DEP’s enforcement actions over the past several years demonstrate that DEP takes these requirements very seriously. Failure to comply with these environmental requirements can not only lead to costly penalties but also the shutdown of pipeline construction by DEP.
Attorneys at Stock and Leader are well-versed in the environmental requirements associated with pipeline construction. They not only can advise pipeline clients on how to avoid violations but also represent their clients in negotiations with DEP to resolve violations.